With concerns about overall federal spending higher than at any time in recent history, fiscal conservatives are taking a closer look at NASA spending, as evidenced by a couple of recent releases–although, at least in one case, their logic is muddled, at best.
Last week Tea Party in Space (TPIS) issued a press release in response to a letter reportedly linked to Utah’s congressional delegation about the use of solid rocket motors in the Space Launch System (SLS). TPIS “strongly condemned” that letter, arguing that the language in the letter strongly requesting the use of solid rocket motors on the SLS was “a sole-source bailout for the Solid Rocket Motor industry”. TPIS called on Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in particular to “disown” the letter if he is not involved in it and said anyone who signs on to it should be “ashamed” of themselves. “TPIS and its volunteer network will be reaching out nationwide to candidates and elected officials of all parties, to ensure that this sole-source earmark is terminated,” the release warned.
That logic is relatively straightforward compared to what the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced last week when it released its list of earmarks in the House version of the FY12 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill. The very first of the “outrageous examples of pork” they cited was for NASA, although it’s difficult to figure out exactly what they’re opposed to:
$237,800,000 to the NASA Space Exploration Crew Vehicle and Launch System, both part of the Constellation Systems Program. CAGW recommended in its 2011 Prime Cuts to eliminate Constellation after years of missed deadlines and cost overruns. In 2010, the Constellation Program was cancelled by the President, but the 2012 Commerce bill confirms that the program continues to receive funding.
SLS and the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle are getting much more than the $237.8 million in the FY12 bill cited in the CAGW release: a little over $3 billion, or more than 12 times the amount listed in the release. There’s no other NASA program in the House appropriations bill getting a similar amount; the Exploration Research and Development line is the closest in subject matter and funding, at $289 million, but that doesn’t appear to be what CAGW is referring to. (I’ve contacted CAGW for clarification and will pass along anything I hear from them.)